OLD SPECKLED HEN—For select animals

My Fellow Inebriates,

After consuming a product like HELL’S GATE GENUINE PALE ALE, a gustatory reset is in order. While our tastebuds haven’t been entirely traumatized, they are certainly casting about for respite. Thankfully my dad didn’t stock our house full of HELL’S GATE; he had the sense to limit himself to a six-pack and look around for something else just in case.

What he found was OLD SPECKLED HEN, an English nitro-can pale ale endorsed (at least on British TV) by a beer-drinking fox.

I didn’t know foxes enjoyed beer, but I suppose if slugs can enjoy it then it’s not completely absurd. Just this morning Miss V found a nasty-looking slug sliming its way across the sidewalk. She studied it for a while and poked it with a stick, then asked how we could lure slugs into our yard. My mother offered to pour some HELL’S GATE into a dish—if only V would wait until late afternoon so she (my mum) could justifiably finish the remainder. At LBHQ our tastebuds have to be pretty damn offended for us to waste beer.

It’s a good thing we have the HELL’S GATE because we certainly won’t be pouring any OLD SPECKLED HEN for the slugs. Lovely clear amber with a well-behaved light beige head, this ale exudes malty complexity: fragrant honey, toffee, and unplaceable herbs. Despite these sweet notes it’s smooth and well-balanced with a satisfyingly bitter finish.

The only mistake in going from HELL’S GATE to OLD SPECKLED HEN is the expectation of fizz the former sets up. HELL’S GATE demands a Pop Rocks–type distraction to acquit itself, but OLD SPECKLED HEN is nitro-carbonated, which makes for fewer fireworks on the palate and a much more transparent presentation of the goods. What you taste is what you get, and with an ale as sophisticated as this one, extreme carbonation would get in the way. Of course Canadian beer is mostly uber-carbonated, so we tend to expect and even long for some snappiness. It might take you two or even several nitro cans to divorce yourself from fizzy expectations and appreciate OLD SPECKLED HEN’s moderately carbonated charm (i.e., Dad, you should have bought more).

Of course you probably know all this, my fellow inebriates. You know there’s a time and place for punk-ass items like HELL’S GATE, whereas OLD SPECKLED HEN belongs in book-lined drawing rooms, leathery English pubs, and the headquarters of blogging bears.

Thus there won’t be any beer challenge weigh-in from slugs, because they’re getting nothing but HELL’S GATE. Poor gastropods—who knows what V has planned for them. No sense in getting their hopes up with OLD SPECKLED HEN. They’d just think it was some sort of pre-execution last supper.

One word to the wise: nitro-can beer makes you fart powerfully, so ventilate your setting properly, unless, as beerbecue recently suggested, like James Joyce, you’d rather not.

HELL’S GATE GENUINE PALE ALE—Embrace your inner Walmart Person

My Fellow Inebriates,

If my dad would buy himself a man-purse, perhaps I could ride in it for his liquor store forays. I could steer him away from weird things like FRÜLI and toward items more conducive to drunken oblivion. But despite my dad’s metrosexual penchant for getting frequent haircuts, he’s shown no inclination to buy a man-purse.

He’s mostly trustworthy when he goes liquor shopping. Yesterday he brought home a budget-minded six-pack of HELL’S GATE GENUINE PALE ALE with “crisp, bold flavour” and 5% alcohol. This is a brand past which both my parents have walked many times, expecting bottom-shelf nastiness. But when you’ve brewed your own using hop pellets and drunk the whole supply with minimal complaint, how nasty can any liquor store offering possibly be?

With no pretence of subtlety, HELL’S GATE will set you back $7.99 for six cans. My heart leapt when my dad walked in with them, and I was so grateful that I thought I’d rely on his tasting notes.


This comment seems a little restrained for a beer whose one-color-printed cans contain a golden, slightly hazy ale wafting a honey-like odor commingled with overcooked vegetables. Undisciplined sweetness hits the tongue while malt and hops trip over each other—but over to the side as second-fiddle players. I taste pellets here but I could be wrong, and if the beer is close to freezing it’s forgivable. Heavy carbonation and icy cold are true friends to HELL’S GATE GENUINE PALE ALE—strip away these conditions and its random flavors go berserk, appalling the tastebuds with funky, stewed characteristics conveyed via a medium mouthfeel and a finish that overstays its welcome in the mouth.

“Not smooth or creamy or any of those things”

What I’m really saying is I loved this beer. This is a camping beer—appropriately sweet for breakfast and so discordant in its baseline flavor array that it’s combinable with any food from baked beans to marshmallows. Throw a couple of flats of HELL’S GATE in your beater car, hope like hell it won’t break down before you reach that illegal camping site where you have to dig a hole for your nightsoil, then seek out People of Walmart who may be sharing your free campsite, jiggling their muffintops and chawin’ on jerky as they turn the beach into a giant ashtray. Break out your HELL’S GATE and bask in their approbation at “what you brung”; “lay” around with them and hurl double negatives into the starry sky…ahhhhh!

“It was beside the Cariboo cans”

My dad considers my praise for HELL’S GATE—which he regards as pitched at lager drinkers with a hankering to expand their beer-drinking repertoire (slightly)—overexuberant. Anyone considering it as a lager-to-ale gateway would probably never approach another ale after the GENUINE PALE ALE experiment ended. He may be right.

And there’s no reason you couldn’t take a decent beer on a camping trip. I’ve just never tried it before.

And my offer still stands: If my dad will get himself a man-purse, I’ll be happy to help him make better beer purchases.

ENGLISH BAY PALE ALE—Good for frogs, bears, and wildlife in general

My Fellow Inebriates,

The kids went to Frog Search today, where they scooped tadpoles and salamanders out of a swampy pond, inspected them under microscopes, sorted them into categories, then sang a song to them as they released them back into the water.

What you lookin’ at?

I asked the frog who lives at LBHQ what he thinks of Frog Search.

He said something unintelligible.

I asked him again.

I think he said ribbit.

The frog who lives here doesn’t have a name. Despite being cuddly and soft he’s not, er, an A-list animal; the kids haven’t bothered naming him, nor do they notice what he’s up to.

Pollywogs who haven’t learned to cuss yet

I asked him again what he thought about dozens of kids plunging empty bowls into his habitat, capturing whatever was unlucky enough to whoosh into the bowls, and then bothering the organisms for several hours before chucking them back.

I thought he said ribbit again but when I queried more closely I realized he’d said motherfuckers. I know, the two words couldn’t be more easily distinguishable, but I was hammered, my fellow inebriates, and for all I know he said antidisestablishmentarianism.

Turns out he did say motherfuckers. He took pains to clarify for me: Goddamn motherfucking nature-walk assholes pluck my tads out of our fucking habitat—what the fuck do you think I think of it, you stupid bear?

So then I felt a little bad. I’d thought maybe it was a bit of an adventure for the ’poles—like the time I woke up with that skull-shaped vodka bottle and drank it all at once.

Did he realize, I asked—the kids sang a song to the tadpoles before tossing them (mostly underhand) into the pond?

The frog told me to go and beat off. (I know, right?! Holy shit, that’s what happens to animals who don’t get loved enough.) So I decided to split a GRANVILLE ISLAND ENGLISH BAY PALE ALE with him. Don’t ask how we managed to get it open; frogs are resourceful enough creatures that they can switch gender; opening a beer must be child’s play.

We used to buy ENGLISH BAY PALE ALE all the time until my mum decided she liked SLEEMAN HONEY BROWN LAGER better. The two beers share similar characteristics; both are highly accessible mass-market-yet-purportedly-micro-style beers that give consumers a bit more than the high-pitched metallic assault of a typical macro brew. They are, if anything, transitional beers that pave the road between craft and macro styles. More expensive, higher quality, but not precious, and not odd. Very mainstream.

I thought the frog would like our beer. It pours a lovely copper-amber on the slightly translucent side, with healthy white foam that dissipates fairly quickly. The aroma is earthy yet toffee-like, following through with a lovely malty, honeyed taste with lingering but mild hoppiness. With moderate carbonation and satisfying mouthfeel, ENGLISH BAY PALE ALE is generous and appealing, although it might not be interesting enough to have a session with. I didn’t want a session and the frog sure didn’t (he said it didn’t taste at all like flies and was therefore just okay). It did make him stop cussing, so it was good for me in two senses.